Poltergeist over Scotland is the first history of Scottish poltergeists, covering 400 years of Caledonian clangings, bangings, fires and fetid smells. I’ll reveal the source of the ‘Cursed Egyptian Bone’ case of 1930s Edinburgh, elucidate the outcome of the Trinity Poltergeist legal case, and identify the earliest poltergeist in Scotland… which was in Edinburgh.
Expect destruction, chaos and scenes of pointless violence from the very beginning.
My next book, Poltergeist over Scotland, will be published at the end of January. It is the first-ever survey of Scottish poltergeists, with 134 cases stretching from 1635 to 2012. Illustrated with images and distribution maps, and with cases in Shetland, Orkney, the Western Isles and the Highlands, as well as all the Lowland counties and the major cities, this should be the definitive work on the topic of Scottish polts.
New research throws light on a number of well-known episodes, from the Edinburgh ‘Egyptian curse’ poltergeist to the Trinity case that famously ended up with one of the participants suing the other in court. In addition, many cases have been rescued from dusty obscurity, while others have either not seen the light of publication for centuries, or are previously unpublished.
Battles. Massacres. Murders and assassinations. Beheadings and hangings. Fire and plague. Religious strife and clan enmities. Urban warfare and suicide squads. Pirates and riots. Bodysnatching and heads on spikes. Gunpowder plots. Sea battles inside Leith harbour. Witchcraft burnings on Castlehill. Breaking on the wheel. Drowning alive in a coffin in the Nor’ Loch.
Edinburgh hasn’t always been the Light in the North. Its past is a blood-splattered horrorshow of dark deeds, and on Tuesday 6 November I’ll be launching my new book The Bloody History of Scotland: Edinburgh with an illustrated talk at the famous Blackwells Bookshop on South Bridge, Edinburgh. This saunter through the sanguinary excesses of the city’s unsavoury history will cover everything from brothel creepers to the location of a cannibal’s oven – not to mention a mysterious medieval knight who turned out to be a woman.
The latter part of October sees the publication of my latest attempt at world literary domination, The Bloody History of Scotland: Edinburgh. The book is a speedy and sanguinary sprint through the city’s dark past, taking in everything from massacres and murders to witchcraft, torture and executions.
Events commence in the Dark Ages with the annihilation of the Goddodin warrior tribe, and continue through medieval wars and sieges onto dastardly deeds surrounding Mary, Queen of Scots, and a veritable rogues’ gallery of assassins, rioters, pirates, hangmen and cannibals. Bodysnatchers, serial killers, poisoners and Zeppelins bring up the rear, and, for light relief, there is also a diversion into Edinburgh’s nineteenth-century brothels and houses of pleasure, with their associated crimes, court cases and general depravity.
“And There Was Slaughter”
A Barricade of Dead Horses!
Tortured to Death over Three Days – For Killing the King!
Murdered at the Sign of the Black Bull!
Slaughter on the Streets!
“Burn Edinburgh to the Ground!”
A Tapestry of Naked Corpses!
Stabbed To Death – In Front of the Queen!
Death of a King: Blown Up and Strangled
Death and the Maiden
A Sea Battle – Inside the Harbour
Drowned Alive in the Loch!
Burn the Witch!
A Concentration Camp – in the middle of Edinburgh
The Dismembered Marquis!
The Wizard of West Bow
The Hangman was a Murderer
He Roasted the Servant on a Spit – and then ate him!
He Fired into the Crowd – and was Lynched by the Mob!
Jacobite Conflicts and the War of the Chamber Pots
It’s hot, hot, hot, as Caribbean songsters Arrow once sang. And as Britain broils, bakes and burns, your humble author is spending his time… hidden away in libraries. (That’s right, I get to devote large amounts of time to doing things I love. Pity me.)
I’m delving deep into the research for Poltergeist over Scotland, and so librarians and archivists from Perth and Glasgow to Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Cambridge have learned to fear my hunger for request slips.
Amazing stuff is being dredged from the archives, including episodes and facts that haven’t seen the light of day for more than a hundred years, if at all. Who would have thought that the history of Scottish poltergeists could be so extensive?
So if you see a pale figure tottering from bookstack to bookstack, his pallid skin untouched by scorching sun, you might just have glimpsed the elusive f=entity known as Ye Poltergeist Hunter of Olde Scotlande…
On Thursday 22 March I’m at the North Ayrshire Heritage Centre in Saltcoats giving a talk on Scottish Bodysnatchers.
The venue, formerly the North Ayrshire Museum, is housed in an eighteenth century church, so the first few minutes of the talk – how to rob a grave, bodysnatcher-style, will start in the graveyard itself. Then we’ll relocate to the comfort of the museum for the illustrated talk on bodysnatching across Scotland in general, with many Ayrshire examples.
The event is FREE and starts at 7pm. Call 01294 464174 to reserve a seat.
North Ayrshire Heritage Centre, Manse Street, Saltcoats KA21 5AA. Map here.